Many Immigrant Families with Children Continued to Avoid Public Benefits in 2020, Despite Facing Hardships

Brief

Many Immigrant Families with Children Continued to Avoid Public Benefits in 2020, Despite Facing Hardships

Abstract

This analysis uses data from the Urban Institute’s Well-Being and Basic Needs Survey, a nationally representative internet-based survey conducted in December 2020 to assess the chilling effects, hardships, and financial concerns reported by adults in immigrant families living with children under 19. Our main findings are as follows:

  • One in 5 adults in immigrant families with children (20.0 percent) and almost 3 in 10 of those in low-income immigrant families with children (28.8 percent) reported that they or a family member avoided one or more noncash public benefits or other help with basic needs in 2020 because of concerns about green card status or other immigration-related reasons.
  • Adults in immigrant families with children were more likely to report chilling effects than their counterparts without children (20.0 percent versus 15.0 percent).
  • Adults in immigrant families with children reported that their families most often avoided SNAP (7.7 percent), followed by Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (6.3 percent). Chilling effects extended beyond programs specified in the new public charge rule.
  • Chilling effects varied by families’ immigration and citizenship statuses, and among adults in immigrant families with children, those with nonpermanent residents were most likely to report that they or a family member experienced chilling effects (42.3 percent). This subgroup would have been more likely than other immigrant families to be affected by the public charge rule and is likelier to face risks of immigration enforcement. However, chilling effects extended to other immigrant families as well.
  • Adults in immigrant families with children reported that their families avoided public programs, even as many faced significant financial concerns. Nearly half of adults in immigrant families with children (45.1 percent) reported someone in the family lost work or income because of the pandemic. In the past 12 months, 28.0 percent experienced food insecurity in the household, and more than 1 in 6 experienced problems paying rent or a mortgage or utilities. In addition, more than 3 in 10 adults in immigrant families with children reported being worried about having enough to eat in the next month, being able to work as many hours as they wanted, or being able to pay rent or a mortgage, utilities, or debts in the next month.
  • Adults in immigrant families with children reported significant health needs in the household, with 40.7 percent reporting someone in the household had a chronic condition or disability. Almost 3 in 10 of such adults (29.9 percent) reported that someone in the family had missed out on needed health care because of cost or that they were having trouble paying medical bills. More than 3 in 10 (31.8 percent) had an uninsured family member.
  • Hardships and financial worries were especially common for those in families with nonpermanent residents, the group of immigrant families with children also most likely to report avoiding programs because of immigration concerns. For example, more than one-quarter of such adults had experienced problems paying rent or a mortgage or utilities in the prior year, more than one-third had experienced food insecurity in the prior year, nearly half worried about having enough to eat or being able to pay utility bills in the next month, and more than half reported worrying about being able to pay debts or the rent or mortgage or reported that someone in the family was uninsured.

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